A “Girls” Girl and Other “Girls”

Desiree Akhavan, NYC, 6/19/14

Desiree Akhavan, NYC, 6/19/14

Outrageousness arrives early in “Appropriate Behavior,” writer/director Desiree Akhavan’s funny first feature. Shirin (Akhavan), is packing up her things, reluctantly moving out of the one-bedroom Brooklyn apartment she shares with her adored girlfriend Maxine (Rebecca Henderson).  Her soon-to-be ex demands that she remove a box that contains what Shirin insists was a gift for her. Shirin deposits the box in a dumpster, reconsiders, and removes a large silver strap-on and casually walks down the street holding it.

But there’s more sweetness (and significant sadness) in the film than “shocking” episodes. And there’s sweetness in those sections as well (including the connection Shirin and a woman wearing latex lingerie have during a threesome with the woman’s husband, and its abrupt end).

In the aftermath of her devastating breakup, long-limbed, bisexual, sweetly sexy (and very polite) Shirin is exiled to a share in Bushwick. She tells her best friend Crystal (Halley Feiffer), “I’m dead inside,” and pines for Maxine.

Through a series of misadventures (sexual, social and quasi-professional–teaching filmmaking to typically ADD six-year-olds), Shirin wrestles with a typical twenty-something problem, establishing her identity. But being true to herself conflicts with being a good Persian-American daughter to her loving but conservative Iranian parents. She eventually–and charmingly–reveals to her mother, “I’m a little bit gay.” And starts to emerge from her sadness.

Akhavan, who co-created and starred in the award-winning web series “The Slope,” has joined the cast of “Girls.”

(I don’t like the word girl when it’s used to describe anyone over 18, 20, max.  It’s sexist, diminishing, demeaning, not ironic–call me old-fashioned.)

“Appropriate Behavior” opens today in New York at the IFC Center, in Los Angeles, and is available on VOD. Desiree Akhavan will be at IFC today and Saturday, January 17 for Q&As following the 7:25 pm shows.

“Paris Is Burning,” Jennie Livingston’s iconic 1990 documentary, wasn’t just ground-breaking it was a 10 on the Richter scale. Livingston’s beautifully intimate and celebratory portrait of 80s Harlem drag balls revealed a sub-culture existing under the radar in a more discriminatory era.

Vying for trophies, cash prizes (and recognition absent in their non-ball lives), African-American and Latino gay and transgendered members of competing fashion “houses” worked it in categories such as “face” and “femme queen realness.” Livingston’s film won a grand jury prize at Sundance and quicker than you can say, “MTV,” Madonna had co-opted voguing. But racial and LGBT equality remain a work-in-progress.

“Paris Is Burning” will have a 25th anniversary screening as part of the 24th annual New York Jewish Film Festival at the Walter Reade Theater on Saturday, January 17 at 9:15 pm. Livingston, the 2015 Festival’s “Guest Selects” director, will introduce. She has chosen two other films for the series, “Sophie’s Choice” and “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.”

Jennie Livingston, NYC, 3/4/91

Jennie Livingston, NYC, 3/4/91

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One Response to A “Girls” Girl and Other “Girls”

  1. Pingback: Paris Is Still Burning | Talking Pictures

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